Weekly Sidra: Shelach Lecha (send for yourself)
Torah Portion: Bamidbar / Numbers 13:1-15:41
Haftorah: Yehoshua / Joshua 2:1-2:24
“Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim, saying, "Go, reconnoiter the region of Jericho." So they set out, and they came to the house of a harlot named Rahab and lodged there. 2 The king of Jericho was told, "Some men have come here tonight, Israelites, to spy out the country." 3 The king of Jericho thereupon sent orders to Rahab: "Produce the men who came to you and entered your house, for they have come to spy out the whole country." 4 The woman, however, had taken the two men and hidden them. "It is true," she said, "the men did come to me, but I didn’t know where they were from. 5 And at dark, when the gate was about to be closed, the men left; and I don’t know where the men went. Quick, go after them, for you can overtake them." — 6 Now she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under some stalks of flax which she had lying on the roof. — 7 So the men pursued them in the direction of the Jordan down to the fords; and no sooner had the pursuers gone out than the gate was shut behind them.” (Yehoshua 2:1-7)
This week’s reading Shelach Lecha is all about being sent out on a mission.
The Torah portion tells us that “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 "Send men to scout the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelite people; send one man from each of their ancestral tribes, each one a chieftain among them." (Bamidbar 13: 1, 2) We know from the story that of the twelve men sent out only two Joshua and Caleb gave a good account of the land. The others provided negative feedback. As a result Israel grumbled against Hashem and missed an opportunity to enter the land.
The Haftarah as well states that Joshua sent two spies to view the land. This time Rahab, a prostitute, saved the spies and was blessed as a result of her actions. Rav Shaul states “Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Phillipim 4:8)
I found many interesting things during this week’s Parashat. First, in the Torah portion Joshua is called Hosea rater that his full name Yehoshua. Why? Long before the spies set out on their ill-fated mission, Moses already suspected something would go wrong (13:16). “These are the names of the men Moses sent to reconnoiter the land. And Moses called Hosea, son of Nun, Joshua.” Why did he change Hosea’s name to Joshua? Our Sages tells us (Tanchuma 6, Sotah 34b) that the new name means “God save.” Moses prayed that God would save Joshua from the conspiracy of the spies. Why was Moses suspicious? Why did he feel this particular intervention was necessary? And why did he single out Joshua from among the twelve spies for special consideration?
The Talmud notes (Berachot 34b), “A messenger’s failure reflects badly on his sender.” This aphorism displays sensitivity to the subtleties of human nature. A messenger’s dedication and enthusiasm usually reflect his perception of the sender’s attitude. If he believes the sender cares deeply, he will extend himself to be successful; the messenger, having accepted the sender’s mission, will do his best to satisfy him. But if the messenger deems the sender indifferent or negative to the mission, he himself will take a cavalier attitude toward its successful fulfillment. For instance, a pious rabbi and an indifferent Jew both send the same messenger to purchase a lulav, the palm branch used for the Sukkoth ritual, offering no additional instructions. The messenger will undoubtedly purchase a first-rate lulav for the rabbi and an acceptable one for the indifferent Jew. Although nothing is spoken out, the messenger’s perception of the sender’s preference will determine his actions.
Although God did not forbid the sending of the spies, Deuteronomy makes clear (1:22-23) that He did not approve of it either. Nonetheless, the weaker elements among the Jewish people, insecure in their relationship with God, persisted in their request for a reconnoitering mission before entry to the land; they did not have sufficient faith that God would deliver the land into their hands. Grounded in spiritual deficiency, the mission was doomed to failure from the beginning. Sensing the negativism of the senders, the messengers adjusted the thrust of their mission accordingly.
Moses perceived the reluctance of the senders to enter the land and understood that the mission was destined for catastrophe. The people’s desire to send spies gave credence to the prophecy of Eldad and Meidad that Moses would not lead the conquest of the land. In order to protect his beloved protégé from this impending disaster, Moses changed his name to Joshua. This act identified Joshua as specifically Moses’ messenger and imbued his role in the overall mission with the passion and enthusiasm of his great sender.
Secondly, we notice in the Haftarah that Yehoshua sends only two spies out. I think he learned a lesson from the first time. Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth. Sending out two instead of twelve meant that it was less likely that the majority could be influenced by negative behavior.
Next, we learn the hard lesson of Lashon Hara (evil speech) and the problems it creates. This is especially when a person speaks badly about the holy land of Israel.
Finally, we see that Rahab, a prostitute was used by Hashem for His glory. If He can use Rahab then he can certainly use us. However, we have to be willing to think on the good things which Rav Shaul admonishes us to do.
It is important for us to be of good character and to always bring a good report. Does that mean bad things will not happen to us? No, of course not! It simply means that we have the power to control our attitude over any circumstance which we face.
Shabbat Shalom u’mevorach!
Tags: bamidbar, caleb, chieftain, fords, haftarah, harlot, HaShem, israelite, israelites, joshua son, land of canaan, negative feedback, Shelach, shittim, sidra, spies, stalks, torah portion, twelve men, Yehoshua
More Related Articles: